If you wanted a great holiday, would you book a hotel with grey walls, no furniture and bright fluorescent lighting? Of course you wouldn’t. Why? Because it wouldn’t exactly be a great environment to be in.
We know offices are for working rather than relaxing, but if you want to keep your staff happy, you have to consider how working in the space you provide is going to make them feel. If you want them to be productive, creative and happy, there’s a few things to bear in mind when it comes to deciding what your offices look like.
The Personal Touch
Allowing your staff to bring in personal items, family photos or pictures costs you nothing and can instantly make them feel more relaxed and in tune with their surroundings. People always work better when they feel comfortable and it’s worthwhile letting your staff personalise their space if this helps them be more productive.
Let People Choose How to Be Creative
Everyone is inspired in a different way, so if you want to cater to the needs of all your employees, you need to provide all sorts of tools to help them do what they do best. For example, some people work better on whiteboards and it can be useful to have a number on easily accessible walls around the offices. Low tables in breakout areas with paper, pens and even coloured pencils can all help promote creativity and help staff express ideas.
Forget One Person Equals One Desk
The old thinking was that you needed a desk for every employee. Now, with the increase in remote working and flexible hours, staff can often reduce the number of desks you need, leaving more space for open, flexible areas where staff can meet, sit and, most importantly, think.
Adopt a Zoning Approach
Be like an urban planner and think of your offices in terms of different zones. By this we mean places to work independently, or a space to work together, places to congregate and chat and, most importantly, spaces in which to sit quietly and just think. This will give employees the flexibility to move around the office depending on what they’re trying to achieve and can often lead to much better motivation and productivity.
Create a Buzz
When you go into a shop or a restaurant, don’t you usually prefer to see lots of people milling around? The same applies to offices. Clearly, you have to take care not to let them get too noisy, but creating a lively “buzz” in your offices can often lead to employees feeling more inspired and keen to get on with the job. Also, a certain level of noise can reduce inhibitions and enable staff to communicate freely. Whereas quiet spaces have their place, no-one wants to be in a library-type environment all the time. Whispering is not a good form of communication.
Allocate Specific Work Spaces
It’s all very well having a warm, open, welcoming environment with lots of activity and noise, but what about those staff that really just need some peace and quiet to focus on a deadline or particularly tricky task? You need to ensure you provide adequate space to enable individuals to have some “quiet time” and it may be useful to set aside a particular area of the office specifically for this purpose. Again, it’s best to equip this with a range of different types of furniture – a desk or meeting table, a sofa, some comfortable chairs and a low table – to accommodate various different working styles.
Take it Slowly
Often, the first offices of a company are put together on a very tight budget which doesn’t necessarily lend itself to all of the above ideas. Our advice would be to initially buy good value second-hand pieces of furniture which say something about the style or image you’re trying to create. You can then use these items to build a bigger, more relvant environment further down the line when funds are not so tight. Many firms start on this basis and, even when they’ve grown beyond all recognition, they still keep at least one piece of the original furniture stock just to remind themselves how far they’ve come.
It’s easy to have an opinion on how your offices should look and how you think they will work best, but the only people who really know the answers are the ones who use the space every day. In short, before making any changes, ask your staff what they want or need to help them work better and be more productive and creative. At the very least, spend a day sitting in the space your staff use and observe what they do. Where do they congregate, which areas do they never seem to use, and why? It could be an eye-opening experience and save you a great deal of time and money into the bargain.
No matter how well your business is doing and how happy your employees appear, most businesses could be doing more to get the most out of both their office space and the people who work in it every day. Making even some of the changes we’ve suggested above takes time and, perhaps more importantly, money, but we think the results will prove the investment of both more than worthwhile.